Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
HE SAID. SHE SAID.
“With each passing day that Congress fails to accomplish what they were elected to do, the readiness of our armed forces becomes more at risk.”
AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Retired.
We are in Day 9 of the government shutdown with seemingly, no end in sight.
Of the many areas affected by the government shutdown, one has garnered a great deal of attention and rightly so. The Pentagon said that because of the shutdown, appropriated funds are not available to them to pay the $100,000 death benefit for families of fallen troops including the families of five killed in Afghanistan over the weekend.
Shortly after the Pentagon’s statement, Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., announced that he would offer an amendment to the Pay our Military Act that would make appropriations available to continue the payment of a death gratuity and certain other death-related compensation.
AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., immediately faxed a letter to the House leadership expressing his support for Rep. Barber’s amendment and urged them to pass it immediately.
“It is unconscionable that family members who have lost a loved one in service to the nation should be face with the loss of compensation for transportation to Dover AFB, the loss of a dignified transfer of remains, and the loss of access to death gratuity funds,” said Sullivan.
Statements made by members on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers agree with Gen. Sullivan. Accordingly, we are hopeful this situation will be resolved immediately.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called most of the civilian defense employees back to work. However, there are some that are still furloughed. Right now, legislation that guarantees that they will get paid is still working its way through Congress.
A Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) statement said that they received final guidance on military and civilian pay from the Defense Department late yesterday. “Normal pay and allowances have been processed and you will receive them in your mid-month pay. The amount reflected in your mid-month statement will be deposited,” said the statement.
For civilian pay, the DFAS statement said, “DFAS has also processed civilian payroll. All employees will receive normal pay through September 30. The amount of pay for Oct 1-5 will be dependent on whether an employee is exempt, excepted from furlough or furloughed. Pay will be received on your normal pay dates beginning Oct 11.”
As far as other areas affected by the shutdown, here is what we do know:
· Permanent change-of-station moves are suspended except for service members traveling to activities and operations deemed essential to national security. The same rules apply to temporary duty travel.
· With regards to healthcare, in-patient and emergency services are unaffected, and outpatient clinics are still taking patients for acute care as well as follow-up appointments. However, routine appointments, including physicals, are being postponed. Appointment phone lines are operational. Non-elective surgeries will proceed. All other elective procedures and surgeries, including most dental services, are suspended. Pharmacies, laboratories and radiology services are functioning at military hospitals and clinics.
· Tuition assistance has been suspended. Applications were cut off on Oct. 1, the first day of the shutdown. The moratorium will remain in place until Congress reaches a spending agreement for the new fiscal year. No requests for financial assistance for military spouses under the My Career Advancement Accounts program will be approved until further notice. Cut-off for that program was also Oct. 1.
· Operation of child development centers, family support centers and family advocacy programs will be determined by each installation.
The government shutdown is only one part of the budget mess here in Washington. The national debt hit the $16.7 trillion legal limit in May. Since then, Treasury officials have implemented a variety of emergency measures to conserve cash but those measures will be exhausted on Oct. 17.
While Treasury officials will not say when the United States will begin to miss payments, independent analysts say it would happen no later than Nov. 1, when the Treasury Department must pay out nearly $60 billion to Social Security recipients, Medicare providers, civil-service retirees and active-duty military service members.
If the various factions are actually working on an agreement to end this mess, it is not apparent to us or the general public. All parties seem content to step in front of the cameras and stick to their talking points. While the frustration created by this chaos is being felt throughout the country, it is particularly appalling to those of us who are keenly aware of the sacrifice our servicemembers and their families are making while we are still fighting the war.
The news about the five servicemembers who were killed over the weekend fighting in Afghanistan was completely overshadowed by the budget battle being waged by Republicans and Democrats.
We could not be more disappointed in our leaders.